BSG - Season 4 - Episode 23
BSG - 4x23 - Daybreak, Part 3 - Originally Aired: 2009-3-20
As the Final Five begin downloading the resurrection data all of their secrets are unearthed and shared amongst each other. When Galen discovers that Tory killed Cally he becomes enraged, breaking the data transfer and snapping her neck, ending the momentary truce between humans and Cylons. A cacophony ensues and Cavil shoots himself in the head. The Admiral orders Kara to jump the ship immediately to save them all. Frightened that she doesn't have the correct rendezvous points, she remembers the piano player's words to "trust herself." The mystery of her destiny unfolds. She realizes that the song her father wrote and the drawing that Hera gave her were both signs of the directional track she would need to lead mankind home.
A savior to the fleet, Kara successfully jumps them 1,000,000 light years away to a land already occupied by an advanced civilization. And although the fleet has arrived safely to their new home, Galactica has broken her back and will never jump again. With the war ended, each crewmember has plans to find their individual destinies. Galen decides to go away to be by himself on an uninhibited island off the northern continents, Lee is excited about exploring the possibilities of the land around him, and Sam Anders will lead Galactica and the abandoned ships, no longer needed, into the sun. Before he is sent away with the legacy of Galactica, a grief stricken Kara Thrace bids Sam a final farewell and leaves her dog tags with him. Once she has left, he whispers "I'll see you on the other side."
Bill Adama puts Roslin in his Raptor with plans of giving her peace in her final days. He says farewell to his children Lee and Kara and they watch him fly away for good. Later on, while marveling at the beauty of the animals and Earth around her, Laura Roslin quietly dies seated next to Bill in the Raptor. Kara tells Lee that she's completed her journey and it feels good and before he realizes it, she vanishes. No longer visible to the eye, he looks around him and states that she will never be forgotten.
Helo and Athena prepare for their new future with Hera, while Gaius and Caprica watch over her from afar. On what is now present day Earth, 150,000 years later, the headlines read that scientists have discovered the skeletal remains of Mitochondrial Eve in Tanzania, who they believe to be the most recent common ancestor of all human beings now living on Earth. The guardian presences of Gaius and Caprica assess the present world, filled with greed and an overload of technology and they affirm — "all of this has happened before..." Yet Caprica is hopeful that the destruction doesn't have to happen again. She believes that if a complex system repeats itself long enough, it might surprise itself —because that too is God's plan. [Blu-ray] [DVD]
- Adama says that the real Earth is 1 million light years from where they were, but this is a physical impossibility. There is nothing but empty space one million light years in any direction from any point in the Milky Way. It's possible Adama's line could be written off as hyperbole, but the official synopsis for this episode has a line which reads: "A savior to the fleet, Kara successfully jumps them 1,000,000 light years away to a land already occupied by an advanced civilization." The part about an "advanced civilization" already being on Earth sounds dubious as well.
- I hope Tyrol likes living on a glacier. They landed on Pleistocene Earth in the middle of an ice age. There's no way he could have survived to seed the gaelic peoples as the plot implies. Though I suppose that's what he deserves for thoroughly screwing over the last chance the Colonials ever had to make peace with the Cylons. That said, despite that, I'm glad Tory got what was coming to her. It was a pretty badass moment despite its mixed implications.
- Six' reference to the law of averages is wrong. What she is actually referring to is the law of large numbers.
- Roslin landing on Earth with Adama violates the Pythian prophecy that said the dying leader would not live to enter the new land.
- Baltar's group's conflict with the Sons of Ares is a completely unresolved plot thread. The last we saw of it, Baltar's group was arming itself. What happened after that remains a mystery. Not that this is the only unresolved plot thread of course, but this one is particularly annoying to me.
- The Tomb of Athena is a huge problem. See comments in the review below.
- This episode won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Sound Editing For A Series.
- This episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series.
- This episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing For A Drama Series.
- This episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Sound Mixing For A Comedy Or Drama Series (One Hour).
- This episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Visual Effects For A Series.
- This episode, which was aired with part 2 as a single double-length piece, did not feature an opening title sequence.
- Survivor count: who cares? They most likely all died in horrible, painful, unnecessary ways thanks to chucking all their technology into the sun.
- When Roslin asks Kara "where have you taken us?" she was supposed to respond "somewhere along the watchtower," but the director, like me, hated the painful, recurring trend of liberally lacing character dialog with obtuse references to All Along The Watchtower and decided to deliberately omit that line from the dialog. Good man. Unfortunately, Starbuck's line just prior "there must be some kind of way out of here" was woefully not excised.
- When Anders flies the ships into the sun, the theme from the original series of BSG plays.
- The man reading the National Geographic about Mitochondrial Eve is series executive producer Ron Moore.
- Cavil to the final five: "Hey, I don't mean to rush you, but you are keeping two civilizations waiting!"
- Tory's murder of Cally being exposed and Tyrol killing her for it.
- The truce breaking down into open warfare again and Cavil killing himself.
- Dead Racetrack's nukes being accidentally fired at the colony.
- Starbuck jumping the ship based on the numbers she extrapolated from All Along The Watchtower.
- Galactica rippling with damage as it arrives wherever it is.
- The revelation that Galactica jumped to our Earth, the other one must have been some other planet.
- Adama et al observing a society of primitive humans in the distance.
- Lee interrupting Romo and Hoshi as they make plans to build a city, proposing that this time they not bother. He proposes that instead they should abandon their technology and revert to the level of technology the locals have, claiming that this will "break the cycle of violence."
- Adama's flashback to being outraged at the lie detector test.
- Anders flying the fleet into the sun.
- Adama naming the planet Earth.
- Lee and Kara in the flashback barely averting succumbing to their mutual attraction.
- Starbuck disappearing.
- Adama regarding Africa: "It's a rich continent. More wildlife than all the 12 colonies put together."
- Roslin's death. One of the most profoundly touching moments of the entire series.
- Baltar: "You know, I know about farming..." Just before he breaks down and cries in regret of how he treated his father in his final years.
- The revelation that the BSG universe took place 150,000 years in our past and that Hera turned out to be Mitochondrial Eve.
In interviews throughout the run of the series, executive producer Ron Moore repeatedly told us that this series was a character drama first and a science fiction series second. Indeed, in this reviewer's view that is an accurate assessment of the show's entire run and has faithfully been its greatest strength. Unfortunately, it is also its greatest weakness, leading to an ever worsening tendency over the years for the show's overarching thematic mysticism to get more and more veiled in mystery and vagueness. The climax of absurdity manifests itself in this ending as one of the most supremely beautiful, emotionally powerful, visually stunning, intensely action packed, and to my everlasting disappointment astonishingly sloppily written science fiction stories I've ever seen.
This ending delivers intense beauty, lovely drama, stunning visuals, and riveting action at the devastating expense of the plot. The gritty realism the show has been grounded in since day one was violated in order to deliver what feels like a powerful ending. The trouble is, despite the captivating drama and glitz, as Ron Moore said in his January 2000 Cinescape interview criticizing Star Trek Voyager's realism, "I think the audience intuitively knows when something is true and something is not true." Battlestar Galactica's ending isn't true. It's neither true to itself, nor to the underlying premise of the show. Everything from the continuity to the science to the narrative aesthetic is either sloppy, full of errors, or both.
The most glaringly significant piece of plot the finale delivers is the discovery of the real Earth, or our Earth, the one we're all living on right now. The implication is that the Earth discovered in Revelations was just some other planet like Kobol or Caprica. If you go back and rewatch Revelations, be sure to take notice that we never once see an external shot of the planet with recognizable land masses because they are all obscured by clouds. This was a nice sleight of hand. The trouble is though in order for us and for the characters to believe that the Earth found in Revelations was the real deal, the Tomb of Athena star patterns had to match from that planet's vantage point. With that in mind, there could be no doubt, that planet was the real Earth, our Earth, the one we're all living on right now.
That was all well and good, but then they throw this curve ball at us. The Earth in Revelations wasn't really Earth? The planet they discover at the end of this episode is really our Earth, Tanzania and all? In that case, the Tomb of Athena is the biggest, most gaping plot hole of the entire series. A real clunker. Because the simple fact of the matter is that it is technically impossible for the constellations to match in both places. Gaeta confirmed that they matched at Revelations Earth, and if you look up into the sky tonight you'll see that they match here too. This is completely irreconcilable. Unless of course you write off the impossible nature of this happenstance as god making it possible. That's this finale's answer to everything.
Because apparently the writers at some point got bored of the show's groundings in gritty realism and presenting seemingly larger than life events in ways that could be rationally explained away and decided that deus ex machina would be more fun. Regardless of how much fun it was to write, it definitely was much less work. What were the imaginary people Baltar and Six were seeing? Angels from god. How did Kara come back to life? She was an angel from god. How did Kara's charred body get from the gas giant in Maelstrom to the faux Earth? God put it there. What were the recurring opera house dreams? Visions from god. The list of plot holes both explicitly and implicitly attributed to god in this episode is extensive and certainly doesn't end there. To say that reducing the only viable explanation for the larger than life happenings of the plot to the supernatural is a cop out is a gross understatement.
But continuity and science errors and covering up plot holes with god aren't the only sins the ending commits. There's still the issue of the colonists suddenly, completely out of nowhere, deciding that they're all, unanimously, going to become technology hating luddites! This is so completely implausible on so many levels that it's downright absurd. Sure, this was obviously a necessary plot contrivance to resolve the issue of why the people of our Earth today don't have inter stellar spacecraft with FTL drives and why technologically advanced civilization is still such a relatively new thing, but all of this could have been built up to in a much more responsible and realistic way.
It is of course not out of the realm of the possibilities that these people who've been literally massacred and traumatized by their own technology would begin to develop an irrational hatred of technology in general, leading to an equally irrational desire to project all the bad things about themselves onto it and throw it all into the sun, but it is completely incomprehensible that it would come out of literally nowhere in the final moments of the finale with absolutely nothing leading up to it. As Ron Moore also said in his January 2000 Cinescape interview, "these people would not act like this." It only would have been believable if an anti-technology movement within the fleet had been building for most of the entire journey with a significant and growing following, even among the main cast. People aren't going to make a decision like this as casually and cavalierly as Lee Adama did totally out of nowhere.
What's worse is in reality a decision like this is fraught with insanely negative consequences that the plot glossed over in an entirely myopic way to the point of romanticization of the primitive. The reality of the situation is life on Pleistocene Earth was brutish and hard; not to mention cold, thanks to the ice age the plot conveniently ignores. Just before launching the attack on the colony, the admiral turns Cottle away from volunteering claiming that the fleet can't afford to lose a doctor. But apparently after they find Earth, that reasoning goes right out the window because they voluntarily get rid of a whole lot more than what a skilled doctor could do for them. They abandon modern medical care entirely, along with sanitation, plumbing, heat, air conditioning, electricity, and perhaps worst of all - liquor! How could all those alcoholics get by without liquor? ;)
The point is mortality rates as a consequence of that decision would be horrifying. Especially given all the scary prehistoric predators Pleistocene Earth had to offer. In fact, all our archaeological evidence suggests that the human race nearly went extinct not too long after our beloved colonists landed. The population may have even been reduced to a number as small as a few thousand. That means that along with the vast majority of the new primitive friends our delighted colonists made upon arrival, all the colonial survivors too were nearly wiped out not too long after they landed. Great job Lee! That luddite thing sure was a great idea!
Given this, Lee's line to Kara reassuring her that she won't be forgotten is like a kind of sad, unintentional comedy. The truth is their entire civilization and everything that they ever accomplished will be forgotten! Another gem of painfully unintentional comedy is Baltar and Caprica Six wondering if Hera will be all right, then being assured by their angels that she will be. I suppose the answer to that question depends on how you look at it. According to our archaeological evidence, Mitochondrial Eve died as a young woman. But I guess Hera surviving just long enough to bear children and thus become Mitochondrial Eve was good enough for god!
Indeed, even though the prophecies of harbinger-of-death Kara and instrument-of-god Baltar leading humanity to its end were supposed to be a reference to Hera's status as Mitochondrial Eve signaling the end of a pure human race as all her descendants were part Cylon and everyone living today is supposed to be a descendant of her, there is yet more unintentional comedy in the idea that given how in addition to the fact that everyone doubtless died horribly well before their otherwise natural lifespan, the entire population nearly died out after they landed. Civilization didn't really recover from this until many tens of thousands of years later. Those prophecies were truer than anyone realized! That's a lot of death.
As an amusing aside, given Lee's instrumental hand in deciding the fate of the colonists, one of the greatest ironies of my writing these reviews over the years is that in a twisted, cynically sarcastic way, I actually predicted that Lee would screw over the entire human race. Recall this passage from my review of Exodus, Part 2: "Lee Adama sure has a habit of breaking things. In the miniseries, two vipers. In Resurrection Ship, Part 2, the Blackbird. And here he destroys the Pegasus herself! Bad Lee Adama, I hate you! What next, he miscalculates a jump and sends the entire fleet into the center of a star thus ending the series?" Yep, that is pretty much exactly what was next.
A better ending would have pared down the unnecessarily verbose flashbacks. There's some interesting symmetry in the characters on daybreak of the first day of their new lives reflecting on the key moments of their past that led them to who and where they are now, but the point could have been made more eloquently without lacing the entire three part finale with flashbacks seemingly at random. Most of the material we saw in the flashbacks should have been given to us in earlier episodes anyway. A better ending would have given narrative focus to how idiotic the decision to chuck all their technology into the sun was, making a point about how in reality these people haven't really learned their lesson, rather than weakly trying to make some half assed anti-consumerism and anti-technology statement followed by a silly robots montage scored to the Jimmy Hendrex rendition of All Along the Watchtower.
In the miniseries, Commander Adama said "you cannot play god then wash your hands of the things that you've created. Sooner or later the day comes when you can't hide from the things that you've done anymore," but that's exactly what they decided to do in the end. They're hiding from the things they've done. They're giving the Centurions the basestar and sending them on their merry way. By refusing to coexist with their technology and by deliberately forgetting their history, they're quite possibly dooming themselves once again to repeating their mistakes, despite whatever head Six might have to say about it. If this science fiction story were a true chronicling of our real history and if we ever found out, I think we'd be pretty pissed off at them for their arrogance and shortsightedness. I don't think writing it off as "their souls weren't ready for science" would go over well in the real world.
Frankly, we deserved better than this. We deserved real closure, not wishy-washy anti-consumerism, luddism, and religious mumbo jumbo. Yes, one could say that religion has always been an important part of the show, but up until now it's always been accompanied by a rational alternative explanation, or at least the possibility for a rational alternative explanation. We deserved internally consistent continuity. We deserved the characters' actions to make sense and have a realistic progression. While it was still on the air, I used to describe BSG to friends who had never seen it before as "one of the greatest science fiction shows there is." Thanks to this finale, I now have to describe it as "one of the greatest science fiction shows ever done, except for the ending." Personally, I think that's very unfortunate. We deserved better than this.
The following are comments submitted by my readers.
- From Jens-Ivar Seland on 2009-04-10 at 6:50am:
Quote: "The most glaringly significant piece of plot the finale delivers is the discovery of the real Earth, or our Earth, the one we're all living on right now. The implication is that the Earth discovered in Revelations was just some other planet like Kobol or Caprica. If you go back and rewatch Revelations, be sure to take notice that we never once see an external shot of the planet with recognizable land masses because they are all obscured by clouds. This was a nice slight of hand. The trouble is though in order for us and for the characters to believe that the Earth found in Revelations was the real deal, the Tomb of Athena star patterns had to match from that planet's vantage point. With that in mind, there could be no doubt, that planet was the real Earth, our Earth, the one we're all living on right now.
That was all well and good, but then they throw this curve ball at us. The Earth in Revelations wasn't really Earth? The planet they discover at the end of this episode is really our Earth, Tanzania and all? In that case, the Tomb of Athena is the biggest, most gaping plot hole of the entire series. A real clunker. Because the simple fact of the matter is that it is technically impossible for the constellations to match in both places. Gaeta confirmed that they matched at Revelations Earth, and if you look up into the sky tonight you'll see that they match here too. This is completely irreconcilable. Unless of course you write off the impossible nature of this happenstance as god making it possible. That's this finale's answer to everything"
You know, this being a sci-fi show, there might be a "plausible" solution that you may not have thought of: The possibility that the last jump was made not only in space but in time too. If they jumped 150.000 years back in time, everything should fit nicely :)
Of course that's never mentioned explicitly, but if it happened, the whole thing would make sense.
The constellations wouldn't change much in that amount of time, but Earth would.
- From Kethinov on 2009-04-10 at 4:06pm:
I thought of that, but RDM has gone on record saying that there was no time travel involved. They're different planets.
- From Mr Adam on 2009-04-13 at 6:09pm:
I think you've been a bit harsh in your reviewing of this very final episode.
Firstly, the 'huge plot hole', or Tomb of Athena mystery, is anything but, and you seem confused over which Earth was actually the 'real Earth'. I cannot, for the life of me, remember them ever discussing the ToA or the constellations in the finale. The 'earth' of the finale was a hitherto unknown planet, not the the earth of Colonial lore. So the earth in 'Revelations' was the real Earth, and they 'Daybreak' earth was just a random planet (which is explicitly in the dialogue).
But really, thats ultimately irrelevant. BSG was never a hardcore sci-fi show and perfect scientific plausibility was never one of it's priorities. Suggesting that the technical gaffe of the ToA is a 'major plot hole' is like suggesting that the lack of explanation of FTL (or which all the ships have artificial gravity) is a 'major plot hole'. It's not. In fact, it's the thing that 99% of the audience will never notice (and indeed, I have not seen one reference to the 'major problem' of the ToA on my travels through various BSG websites).
Secondly, you treat the 'thematic mysticism' of the show as some ridiculous drivel, conjured up out of nowhere to tie up loose ends (in short, a deus ex machina), and suggest that the show has "always been grounded in gritty realism". But, sir, you are only playing cards with half a deck. The show has included religious undertones since the very first episode and in many others since then and, i think, is more about the interplay of spirituality and realism, about the effect of that sort of thing on peoples' lives. Unfortunately you discounted any of the shows' mysticism as soon as it reared it's head and demanded more plausible, immediately noticeable answers. (as much as obvious from reading your past reviews). So when the finale arrived, it didn't fit with this version of the show you manufactured for yourself; it jarred and, to you perhaps, seemed like it came from nowhere. But to some end, religion and God has always filled in for some of the less-explained events of the show, making this anything but a classic deus-ex-machina.
Furthermore, you say that there "has always been the possibility of a rational explanation" for such religious events, but this is simply not the case. What about Kara's disappearance and presumed death? The fleet's power outage at the end of S3? That random kids' sudden recovery at Baltar's hand early in S4? None were fully explained. Thus, your statement is simply a front to cover for your inherent bias against the spiritual aspects of the show.
Thirdly, your judgements on the colonists' decision to embrace their inner luddite and go primitive are shallow and miss the point. The fact that the decision "came out of nowhere" could hardly be anything other under the circumstances, given that the Colonists hardly had any choice in the matter until a couple of minutes prior (when they discovered 'Earth'). While this was certainly sudden and could have been explained better, one can still 'fill in the blanks'. In your words, humanity gives up "all that it has created". But what *had* they created? An imperfect society with typical human vices and the Cylons (who ultimately led to their destruction). Some achievements, huh? The decision of the humans to reject their past and forge a new future by 'going primitive' is representative of their desire to break away from that which has plagued their previous societies. While the primitive lifestyle is certainly romanticised to a degree, this is a means to an end. The real message is the cycle of birth, death and rebirth and the importance of the humans' attempts to break with that cycle.
Lastly, the 'anti-consumerism' of the finale was also a greater message, this time of the implied continuation of said cycle. In fact I thought this was particularly well done, because instead of being a 'technology is bad' rant, it seemed a suggestion by the writers that 'all of the problems you have just seen are still happening', represented by the robots we see on screen. Head Six and Head Baltars' final lines are, in essence, a challenge to the audience not to repeat such wrongdoings and to suggest that the message could be as shallow as "wishy-washy anti-consumerism" is not doing the show any justice at all because the meaning is far greater than that.
I hope you take these ideas on board.
- From Kethinov on 2009-04-13 at 7:05pm:
Saying that the Earth in Revelations was the real Earth and that Daybreak Earth is just some random planet is a completely nonsensical rationalization. As I said in the review, the Earth they landed on is quite clearly depicted as the one we're all living on now. We can see those constellations in the sky right now. They can't exist in two places at once. That is the plot hole.
Claiming that FTL and artificial gravity are on equal standing to the Tomb of Athena is equally irresponsible. These technologies are speculative technologies and having explained to us precisely how they work is not plot relevant. The Tomb of Athena is incredibly plot relevant and furthermore it's rooted in real science, not speculative science, which has been violated. That makes it a major plot hole.
Furthermore, just because you haven't seen any other websites talking about this problem doesn't mean I'm wrong.
As for religion, I already acknowledged in my review that the show has had religious undertones since day one. Undertones are fine. As I wrote in my review, the difference is this is the first time the show has explicitly ruled out any sort of rational explanation, leaving only the supernatural. That crosses a line the show has never crossed before.
Regarding deus ex machina, lie to yourself if you must, but not to me. A simple read of the definition of the term should clear this up for you if you're willing to be honest with yourself about it. You might also want to take notice of the fact that hoards of people share my view that it is deus ex machina, because it's hard to deny a fact. The difference is, not everyone cares. Deus ex machina isn't necessarily a bad thing in some people's opinions, though I think that especially in this case it is.
You then question whether or not rational explanations were ever possible in the first place, outlining a series of questions, such as "What about Kara's resurrection?" Her resurrection could have been Cylon related, as most rational fans assumed. The idea that she was the first hybrid rather than Hera was an attractive one, as it would have explained a lot. That's just one of any number of possible rational explanations that could have been used instead.
You also asked: "The fleet's power outage at the end of S3?" The nebula could have had a temporary effect on colonial technology. You also asked: "That random kids' sudden recovery at Baltar's hand early in S4?" Coincidence.
You say these things were not fully explained and that I'm just trying to cover my own bias against spirituality. But the truth is they didn't need to be fully explained so long as they were at least satisfactorily explained or had room for acceptable rationalizations like I have done above. In fact, this ending is a biased toward the spiritual by leaving no room for anything but the supernatural.
You then moved onto my complaints about the decision to go primitive coming completely out of nowhere, claiming it couldn't have gone down any other way. This is a lack of imagination on your part, or at least a lack of a thorough reading of my review. The decision to go luddite is not realistic. These people would not do this out of nowhere. The only way that decision would be realistic is if there was preplanning within the fleet in the form of people who were advocating the abandonment of technology as soon as a habitable planet was found. There was no such movement; they were even planning to build a city right up until Lee blurts out his idea and suddenly, instantly, everyone goes for it. That's patently ridiculous.
You then wrote: "But what *had* they created? An imperfect society with typical human vices and the Cylons (who ultimately led to their destruction). Some achievements, huh?"
This wishy washy nihilist nonsense is not a justification for their actions. The real world doesn't work that way. Thus the show is not realistic.
You then wrote: "The decision of the humans to reject their past and forge a new future by 'going primitive' is representative of their desire to break away from that which has plagued their previous societies. While the primitive lifestyle is certainly romanticised to a degree, this is a means to an end. The real message is the cycle of birth, death and rebirth and the importance of the humans' attempts to break with that cycle."
And that's the irony of ironies. The fact that they could make the extreme decision to go primitive and set the Centurions free for the purpose of ending the cycle, as you say, speaks to the fact that they could have coexisted with them peacefully for the rest of their days, as they had already been doing since Revelations. Whether the writers of the finale meant that to be ironic or they simply missed the logic connection is unknown to me.
Finally, you wrote: "Lastly, the 'anti-consumerism' of the finale was also a greater message, this time of the implied continuation of said cycle. In fact I thought this was particularly well done, because instead of being a 'technology is bad' rant, it seemed a suggestion by the writers that 'all of the problems you have just seen are still happening', represented by the robots we see on screen. Head Six and Head Baltars' final lines are, in essence, a challenge to the audience not to repeat such wrongdoings and to suggest that the message could be as shallow as "wishy-washy anti-consumerism" is not doing the show any justice at all because the meaning is far greater than that."
We didn't need that for the show's message of "use technology responsibly" to get across. That message was clear from the very first episode. That final scene of the finale was unnecessarily heavy handed and certainly wasn't earned. At best it was cute, if redundant.
- From Mr Adams on 2009-04-14 at 11:09pm:
When I said that Daybreak Earth was just a random planet, I meant that in reference to Colonial mythology. That is, the humans had no prior knowledge of this planet (yes, the Earth we live on now), but they DID have knowledge of the Revelations Earth (reduced to a wasteland by the 13th tribe). Daybreak Earth represented the final realisation of the humans' efforts to find a new home, and hence deserved the name Earth (in the mind of Adm. Adama). Sorry if I did not properly explain this last time.
Secondly, your point about real science and speculative science is noted and I am happy to concede that point. However, it remains that the error of the ToA is inconsequential in the minds of most viewers and does not register much of a blip on the collective BSG-fan radar. In the end the scientific accuracy of the show (whilst never vehemently pursued by the producer or writing staff) is a question of personal importance and as a reviewer, making a subjective and personal analysis, I guess you are perfectly entitled to that particular opinion.
Since you seem to find my interpeatation of a deus ex machina so utterly objectionable, Random House Dictionary suggests that such a thing is "any artificial or improbable device resolving the difficulties of a plot". In more literal terms, it could also be a God introduced into a play to solve plot entanglements. Disregarding the fact that this second definition is usually applied to Greek and Roman drama, not modern TV, both can be refuted in regards to BSG and that your view of a deus ex machina was due to your misconstruing of the ending.
In terms of the first, you would seem to be suggesting that the late revelation that a higher power was presumably behind many of the less explained happenings of the show was "artificial or improbable". However, as I have previously mentioned, the religious aspects of the show had been steadily progressing since day one. They did not occur out of nowhere, did not jar with the show's previous material and had been predicted by many to have a part to play in the finale (again, this is based on my visits to various BSG websites). This makes the ending neither artificial nor improbable, and thus not a deus ex machina in this sense of the term.
In regards to the second, you assume that the idea of a God has been introduced in the final moments to cover up for previous plot deficiencies. Not true. The idea of God had been part of the show for it's entirety. Yes, it could be said that there was also a lack of other rational explanation in the finale - but this is missing the point. None were needed - the storyline was resolved in a manner appropriate to the show's direction. However, sir, it seems you relied on these alternative rational explanations for plot coherence. Your reply suggested that you considered alternative rational explanations (of any nature) necessary or else the events in question had not been properly resolved. However the show didn't need them in the end - the plot does not have to be resolved twice over (once spiritually and once rationally) - but you did. This is why I suggest that your perception of a deus ex machina is not due to any problem of the show's.
Also (and coming from further left-of-centre) it would still be possible to impose an atheistic reading on the show, based on rational explanations and (when that fails) "coincidence". Thrace's co-ordinates led them to a habitable planet? Coincidence. The fact that this planet was already inhabited by humans? Another coincidence. The Head characters? Manifestations of the human psyche. Constant reference to divine entities? A representation of man's inherent tendency to adopt religious practices, whether founded or not. If you were able to devise rational explanations for such events as the S4 Kid and the Ionian Powercut then it is only a short step to a holistic 'rational reading'. In the end, no deus ex machina. The spiritual and rational readings are separate entities, but if you attempt to combine them into some frankeninterpretation (as you have done) then that is going to cause perceptive problems.
Also, you said that "just because other websites aren't talking about this problem doesn't mean that I'm wrong". Despite this assertion, you later state that "hoards of people share my view that this is deus ex machina, because it's hard to deny a fact" to vindicate your own argument. This is a logical contradiction and smacks of arrogance given the ample evidence to the contrary. Based on your initial statement, I could easily say that "just because other people don't necessarily agree with me, doesn't mean I'm wrong" - which is essentially what you have suggested.
Finally, the show's message was more than "use technology responsibly". It wasn't just about making sure that cute, trumpet-playing, stair-descending ASIMO doesn't morph into a gun-toting killing machine, but more about the issues of human society as a whole and what could and should be done to correct such wrongdoings. Technology is but a single aspect of this. Far from being "redundant", the final scene brought the problems of BSG back into the real world - while not explicitly necessary (given that it was the show's intention to highlight such problems all along as you mention) it was a reaffirmation and a clean finish.
That is all for now.
P.S. are you intending to review the Star Trek movie coming out next month?
- From Ben on 2009-04-15 at 1:30am:
I understand the logic behind all of your points, but I agree with Mr Adam about the Tomb of Athena not being a plot hole. I will be as straightforward as a can because it's kind of convoluted.
The constellations on "earth" from Revelations match the constellations at the Tomb of Athena (or something like that).
The earth from Daybreak is a different planet. Nobody cares about the constellation pattern around this planet. It doesn't matter. Since it's impossible for them to be the same, they're probably not the same. The colonists just found this planet and called it "earth".
The earth designated by the Tomb of Athena is the one they find in Revelations. The earth the colonists end up settling on in Daybreak has nothing to do with that earth.
I think the confusion is about whether or not the constellations we see in real life today are the same ones that surrounded the Tomb of Athena. As you said, it is impossible for the constellations to match at the Tomb of Athena and at BOTH earths. I was simply under the impression that the show did did not give us enough information about the actual pattern surrounding the tomb to be able to tell that this was the case.
I apologize if my science is a bit off, or if I remember Home, Part 2 incorrectly.
- From Kethinov on 2009-04-15 at 6:49am:
The constellations at Revelations Earth were confirmed to match the Tomb by Gaeta. The constellations at Daybreak Earth can be confirmed to match the Tomb by you, tonight, if you look up into the sky. It's an undeniable plot hole. Yes, the show did give us enough information. Believe me, I wish they hadn't. I like rationalizations.
Yes, I'll be reviewing the new Star Trek film some time after it comes out. The review may not show up for at least several weeks after it hits the theaters though.
If I read your post correctly, you conceded that the Tomb of Athena is indeed a plot hole, but you maintain your position that it isn't important on the grounds that it's inconsequential to most viewers. That may be so. Perhaps blatant science errors aren't important to most people, but I'd sooner chalk that up to ignorance than importance. If any other kind of easier to notice for the average Joe science error happened in the plot (say, Lee Adama shooting bullets around corners without explanation) you'd see more people caring because they would know it wouldn't happen this way.
Frankly, especially on a science fiction show, the factual accuracy of the science depicted in the plot should be of paramount importance to the audience. Even if it isn't, it should definitely be of paramount importance to anyone writing critical reviews. If it's not, then that reviewer isn't doing his or her job correctly.
Regarding the deus ex machina point, the defense that god has been a part of the show since day one and thus its major role in the finale should not come as a surprise is not adequate. Even just a simple listen through the commentary can prove that, at least until the end of the third season, the writers were creating a deliberate ambiguity as to whether or not supernatural forces were literally real and literally manipulating the plot. They were careful to provide rational explanations, or at least leave room for them for nearly everything that happened on screen. Anything that was left open ended was unresolved on both ends, a deliberate mystery. (Such as Head Six.)
Some time in the third season though, the writers changed their minds and decided rational explanations "weren't interesting." That's exactly how RDM put it. His interest was solely in character drama now. Thus for anyone entrenched in the show's premise of gritty realism and spiritual ambiguity, the shift in tone is what constitutes the unexpected surprise, or as you cited, its "improbability." And its role in resolving flaws and tying up loose ends is clear and present. Sounds like deus ex machina to me, and a whole lot of other people too. Again, I'll remind you, deus ex machina is not necessarily bad in everyone's opinion. And if god were unambiguously real since the first episode, I would not be (as) critical of the ending.
Now I know you found it ironic that I would argue from consensus on the point of deus ex machina given that I pointed out an error in your logic when you implied that lack of widespread discussion on the Tomb of Athena issue cast doubt on its validity. However, I am not entirely arguing from consensus here. I've demonstrated that the plot fits the very definition of the term you cited. I only cited a widespread consensus on the matter for some additional credibility; it isn't the core of my argument, and thus is not the logical contradiction you seem to think it is. Though, as you said, it may have been arrogant to bring up. ;)
In one of your points, you cited more potential rational explanations for things. I have no objection to the validity of any which you cited, except for this one: "The Head characters? Manifestations of the human psyche." This one fails because the head characters did things in the real world. The only way for it to have worked is if everyone was having the same hallucination, which crosses the suspension of disbelief line. Indeed, the writers wouldn't even ask us to swallow that because they considered the literal existence of god more realistic.
You then claim that devising rational explanations for the many unlikely events of the show is only a short step away from rationalizing the whole thing. I certainly don't think that's the case. A whole bunch of people getting lucky constantly is much more likely than the literal existence of a supernatural being. These two things are not a short step away, but instead a great leap (of faith?) away.
Regarding the show's message, obviously it was about more than simply using technology responsibly. Any show that goes on for several years will have bigger themes. But that last scene certainly was redundant. Frankly, you seem to have admitted that by saying it wasn't "explicitly necessary" because the show had been hammering home these themes all along. As for the clean finish, sure. Reiterating the theme(s) in the final scene does make for a nice clean finish. But as I said, it wasn't earned.
Think about it from my perspective for a moment. Supposing you shared my view that the supernatural forces constituted a deus ex machina, wouldn't you find the final scene vaguely ridiculous too?
- From Giuseppe on 2009-04-16 at 5:49pm:
I loved BSG up until this one last episode which I found to be quite distasteful for a show that started off on a science fiction premise.
The reason why I hated the ending? because for most of the show I was led to believe that all the unexplained events and phenomena would eventually be given a rational explanation. And all I got was some sort of "God did it" explanation.
Truth be told I have no problem with an element of mysticism in science fiction, as long as it's not used to explain away every loose end. And that's exactly what RDM did with BSG. It's too easy; too convenient. It's poor writing.
I did miss the Tomb of Athena thing, but many other things bugged me with the ending: how our Earth was found (God gave Kara the coordinates?), how Kara disappears into thin air (she's an angel?), how head Baltar and head Six are supposed to be some separate entities independent of Baltar's and Six's existence (they're angels too?), how the colonists decide to to abandon technology completely and how they have a consensus on the matter (no one has a problem with giving up on medical technology for example?). And I also thought letting the Baseship go was a mistake. What's to stop those centurions from going 'wild' again? God? That's too much for me to stomach in a Sci-Fi show.
- From Lennier on 2009-04-24 at 6:00pm:
Giuseppe, Starbuck didn't get the coordinates from God. She got them from Hera, who had somehow taken them from "All Along the Watchtower".
- From Ggal on 2009-04-25 at 8:22am:
Someone said once that the greater ironies are consecrated in time. The Bsg's finale corroborates these words.
So the odyssey of 4 years, the struggle to preserve a civilization, the sacrifice of brave pilots, was to end hunting gazelles? in order to break the cycle of violence?
God wanted that? i very much doubt that.
When you build a society, laws, poetry, medicine, technology, traditions, art, you must defend it because you are what you are thanks to sacrifices of thousand of men women, in old and new battlefields, from marathon to normandy.
The Bsg's end destroy completely everything carefully built the creators four years.
The most ironical thing is that all the so called villains of the series, Admiral Caine, Tom Zarek, Gaeta are fully justified for the actions. There were right.
Admiral Cains was right about Adamas erratic leadership, his nepotism, lack of discipline. Admiral Cains actions all were according to the Book.
Adama was fit to command a ship and not a fleet. He was too capricious, and emotional for this job. His incapacity as commander was obvious.
He let baltar to lead the humanity nearly to his annihilation because didn't do the obvious, to depose him for his actions.We know the result.
When Baltar returned he permitted him, to go unpunished, the man who helped the destruction of 12 colonies, the man who permitted an enemy agent to kill the admiral Cain the most competent commander of the fleet.
And the man who gave an atomic bomb! to a agent of the enemy. For actions with lesser actions men have at least imprisoned....
Kara Thrace words that with death of admiral Cain
the fleet is less safer than was sounds so ironically.
The same applies to Tom Zarek and Gaeta. first of to clarify something: Their actions were not treason there were fully justified. If anyone committed treason was Adama who permitted cylons and their technology.
The only hope of saving the mankind was gone with the death of these two brave man who died with honor and pride and not in a cave in the Adamas earth.
I would like to mentions Duallas suicide. It was an action of despair but with such a dignity and honor, it is better to die when you lost what you love than to die in few months of lethal disease in earth.
As for Lee Adama its a shame, pitiful, a commander of a battlestar, acting president, who traveled through the galaxy to say that his only wish is to explore a mountain!
And the admiral to send his fleet to the destruction in the sun without specific reasons just listening voices int he air... A real admiral dies with his ship or commits suicide.
But the greater irony is Kara Thrace as harbinger of death. He fulfilled his prophesy, all the people died without medicine within few month and we speak about terrible deaths because they gave up all their things.
What a shame for science fiction series to be so anti science fiction.
As for the result in earth we have had 150000 of violence, genocides, religious phanatism, wars of annihilation, and this thanks to Adama family....
The cycle of violence has nothing to do with technology, wars, violence are complex socioeconomic issues. The technology has nothing to do with that its irrelevant.
Billions died in colonies. Many in battles in order to preserve the history ,and honor of a civilization . Its a crime at least to throw away thousand of years of progress with the vain hope of breaking the cycle of violence.
It was probably the worst finale in the history of science fiction and nearly destroyed the reputation of the entire series.
- From Giuseppe on 2009-04-30 at 7:10am:
@Lennier: Thanks for clarifying that for me; I should've paid more attention. Things make much more sense now :))
- From Occuprice on 2009-04-30 at 10:53pm:
Just throwing my two cents in on the Tomb of Athena. If you're going to obsess over it and take it literally, as you have done, then you need to, well, take it literally. The ToA and scriptures say that on Earth, the 13th tribe could look up and see all 12 constellations at once (this was even discussed in that podcast I think). So, if you're going to take things literally... then no, the Earth in Revelations was not our Earth. If the constellations match the tomb of Athena, then you can look up and see all 12 at once. You can't do that from our Earth.
I don't think you can bend what is said about the constellations for the Earth in Revelations and then be so cemented in their regard for Daybreak.
- From Kethinov on 2009-05-04 at 4:50pm:
Occuprice, there is nothing in the show's canon that indicates that the constellations are all visible at once from Earth. That said, strictly speaking, if this bothers you, you could see them all at once from a nearby location in space. :)
- From Sebastian on 2009-05-13 at 1:17am:
I'm not sure if this has been covered but isn't a solution to the whole mind people (Baltar and Six in the opposite's head) also the solution for Kara? They could be angels in a literal form. Leoben calls her an angel when he first met her I believe and fits into her whole divine mission he insisted she had. It also explains how she disappeared in the conversation with Lee and was still able to manipulate objects.
- From Kethinov on 2009-05-13 at 3:20am:
Sebastian, yes that is covered in my review. The head people and Kara are clearly both related to the god being that manipulated events.
- From Jumbo on 2009-06-14 at 11:30pm:
This episode was insulting. I was giddy with anticipation with regards to the tying up of loose plot threads. What I got was a wholly unsatisfactory answer mired in spiritualism, along with a preachy and religious ending.
This is a science fiction show. I don't care if it "focuses on character drama", it's SCIENCE fiction, and I would enjoy having an explanation that is at least a bit secular. Furthermore, while the idea of social commentary from the point of view of Star Trek I appreciate as the commentary is carried out through a self-contained plot, bringing up present-day Earth and showing us our faults explicitly and such is entirely superfluous, and is an insult to our collective intellect. Yes, we know what you were saying. It is a lot more meaningful if you don't interrupt your show with, "Well, what we were saying was this, you see..."
I gave this a one over a zero because of how Roslin's death was handled - that was excellent. I really felt for the Admiral.
Still a great show - just with a poor conclusion.
- From Remco on 2010-03-24 at 10:59pm:
One thing that struck me today is that the 12 colonies culture didn't quite vanish. Every similarity to our culture can be seen as stemming from their culture. The naming of the gods, the idea of monotheism, the fear of AI, similar government structure, but also the little things like neckties, pianos, ball sports, boxing... apparently this ice age culture has been of great influence to us! ;)
- From Yanks on 2010-05-15 at 11:06am:
I couldn't agree more with our reviewer's synopsis of BSG's closer. I was left "half full" here. Spot on with regard to the Opera House. What did it mean? Ron Moore stated on the DVD extras that he was having a real hard time trying to close the series. His light bulb moment was "it all about the characters!". I call that his "excuse moment" for his lack of story line discipline. If he would have concentrated on that and planned more, he wouldn't have painted himself in a corner that he couldn't get out of. BSG season 3 and 4 were "character shock and awe", nothing more. These characters had abused and betrayed each other so often I didn't feel anything for any of them but Roslin in the end. Sad really, because seasons one and two were epic and some of the greatest SCI-FI I have ever seen. I was convinced the closer was going to reveal what the Cylon's "plan" was, you know "...and they have a plan!". I was gutted when that didn't come to be. I was even more frustrated when "The Plan" didn't reveal it either. All "Day Break" and "The Plan" revealed to me was there was no plan the whole time. Very frustrating. What are Baltar, Six and Cara anyways?
- From Sean on 2011-01-01 at 2:49am:
As I got closer and closer to the end of BSG, I couldn't help but get the impression that RDM and the writers were huge fans of "Lost". Not only did the flashbacks in this episode remind me of the narrative structure of this show, but Lost had a big science vs. faith debate at its core, too. Lost’s final season (and especially the finale) was almost exclusively about fate and destiny. Despite this, I enjoyed the end of Lost, because at least the characters weren't acting like complete morons!
I thought the Sagittarons refusing medicine in "The Woman King" was unbelievable, but this is just ridiculous. I cannot accept that the majority of civilians would be fine to ditch all the medical technology and luxuries that had been developed over thousands of years. This annoyed me in "Avatar" - the Na'vi are made out to be this ideal civilisation free of violence. Well, James Cameron and RDM probably weren't paying attention in history class, because primitive cultures are just as brutal, if not more so, than us. The movie "Apocalypto" springs to mind...
So, let's pretend that they did vote in favour of ditching technology (gods, I hope there was a vote...). What about the art, history and literature of the twelve colonies? It'll all be forgotten in a few generations, and in 150 000 years, nothing will be left except a few myths about the zodiac. Bad luck for the great poets and writers of the twelve colonies! RDM clearly doesn’t realise life isn't just about passing on your genes - we can leave behind much more than DNA.
Pretending the cycle of violence will stop is also stupid. Frankly, I'm shocked there wasn't another rebellion when Lee suggested his idea, but I think Lee would be sad to hear about The Crusades, World War II, September 11...
I can forgive religious mumbo-jumbo, vague spiritual stuff and unanswered questions, as long as there's a good story being told (like I did with Lost). I cannot accept the characters acting like idiots, though. A shame it had to end this way.
- From Orion on 2014-09-01 at 2:15pm:
I loved Daybreak, including Part 3. We got a long goodbye with the characters, as opposed to All Good Things where we get a card game and a zoom out.
I wasn't a big fan of them chucking their technology into the sun, but had they kept that technology, I'd be driving a flying car today. It makes sense for continuity's sake.
Regarding the "plothole" with the Tomb of Athena, you CAN see the same set of constellations from two different places (the two earths in the series may be within 10 light years of each other). See the article below about how the constellations would look from Alpha Centauri:
- From Kethinov on 2014-09-02 at 4:30am:
If they were within ten light years of each other, it shouldn't have taken the fleet another half season and a lot of mysticism to discover the second Earth.
It's a plot hole. A very big, wide, gaping one.
- From Lumzi on 2016-12-15 at 10:52pm:
What follows is only loosely directed at kethinov/siterunners
Sorry but I think that you guys are overdoing it a bit. This ending is one the most strikingly powerful endings I have ever experienced. It was amazing. Perhaps it wasn't perfect in every detail but it was lovely. If you want and ending that was genuinely disappointing then look at Mass Effect 3 and even that was only in the last 15 minutes or so (the events just prior to those last few minutes were incredible).
I get that you are a details guy but I think your secularism goes a bit too far when it comes to this show.
The only part of this episode that stuck out as irksome was the stuff about the 'angels' in the future and their whole dialogue.
As for the whole 'they left their tech that's crap' all I will say is that my impression is that the end was supposed to be idealistic - maybe to a fault.
The honest truth is that whatever you think about the shows ideology the ending worked - powerfully so. Perhaps the loose threads were left intentionally. Why does Star Bucks vanishing have to have a scientific/secular answer? Would it have been more satisfying if she were a clone or whatever? Was the whole thing masterminded by highly evolved aliens? We are talking about visions and prophecies and people appearing and disappearing. It might be more satisfying to your personal/practicalist/materialist/secular (an assumption on my part, granted) world view for for everything thing to be neatly explained and solved but maybe that isn't really what BSG is (or at least what it became over time).
Not that I agree with BSG's ideological/religious perspective. Or even it's scientific one (even when it agrees with current scientific opinion). I just think that the ending worked more - much more - within the shows established boundaries than a 1 out of 10 suggests. It was an effective, dreadfully moving ending.
Battlestar Galactica was not perfect but that ending was very far from its worst quality. For me it was that final adornment on a grand but flawed masterpiece.
- From Lumzi on 2016-12-15 at 11:33pm:
On further thought I will admit that season 4 did have a sharper lean towards the mystical than prior seasons in general. Perhaps the mystery of of events in BSG is part of what made the show appealing rather than necessarily the mystical. Though they maybe the go hand in hand (at least to a degree).
Now that I think about it perhaps it would have been better if things like Gauis' Six 'angel' were what they initially appeared. In this particular case as some kind semi download of the Caprica Six into his mind during the initial attack when she protected him from the shock wave.
Then again, there were other things like the Pythian prophesies and the visions of the future that wouldn't have been as fascinating without a more supernatural element.
No without a doubt the fantastical has been an important part of the shows fabric from very early on. Stuff like Leoben talking about Kara destiny and things like that are part of what made the show compelling.